This is a season for comfort food that masks family tension. For some reason, many people are not assuaged by the fact that they will be receiving a gift or two in exchange for an uncomfortable, emotionally charged family gathering. Some people can leave the occasion feeling healthier, others will feel less well as their stress is activated and triggers are pushed.
It doesn't matter how healthy we are, it matters less if we have ailing relationships. Who wants to live healthy into old age alone? It's known that people who are married live longer (if they don't kill each other *tongue in cheek*) and people get more life satisfaction by the company of pets than other humans. Isn't that a shame? I'm just disappointed at our lackluster effect on each other.
How about instead of trying to buy a gift that won't be regifted (not that I do that- LOL), we think of things we can do for our relationships to turn a new corner. Maybe tell that person that you are sorry for "x" and the loss of connection because of it. Maybe revive a relationship by letting someone off the hook and telling them you forgive them. Maybe pick one small thing between you two that you could resolve to fix between now and that gathering.
The gift of relationship is priceless. It helps babies develop and thrive. It helps our health. It helps combat mental illness. It can be supremely redeeming to one's self perception. You cannot serve another person if you are alone or do not know/ask what they need. God calls us to die to ourselves in the abstract sense because he died on the cross in the real sense. Our selflessness pales in comparison to the call to die physically. It is the first step to adopting a life of service. Service speaks value into the recipient. I think that is a good theme for this holiday- to value each other.
Another thing that has come to my mind is how the Enemy can put lies out there in the expanse of our minds that can trick us into perceiving wrongs that were not personal at all. But that's what he wants- for us to be divided and to be on his dark squad. He will disguise human instinct for intentional wrongdoing. Anything he can obscure, he will especially to tear us apart from each other.
Then the enemy takes our pain, turns them into vows like "No one will ever tell me how much soda I can drink" and then anyone who threatens that vow is fair game. Those vows are the triggers that take us back in time with unwitting company. Many times the anger of today is of past struggles and pain. The easiest way to diffuse anger is to de-personalize it and then treat it with the opposite spirit (of love/peace). For instance you need to insert this thought into your mind: "Knowing that you felt marginalized as a kid and your parents divorced, I can understand why you felt triggered by this event." And then act and say something that speaks toward that pain. Try responding with "Can I do anything for you? Should I just listen?" Once you tap into someone's pain (not think about yourself), it is easier to rebound from conflict and not feel significantly hurt.
There is much wisdom is seeking outside counsel or arbitration. Ken Sande has a ministry that does just that- he resolves conflicts of the legal kind. He has a book about resolving conflicts- we might have enough time to read through that book before we see our families. That would be a proactive measure to have a more enjoyable and less stressful holiday.
I do pray over your heart and your relationships. I ask that God soften your hearts toward each other. I ask that God reveal to you other people's pain and vulnerabilities and to recognize when people are hurting or trying to hurt you. I ask that we have a forgiving and joyful heart toward one another and value our differences. Thank the Lord for making us all unique and therefore not redundant and sincerely needed. I mostly thank God that he gave us his son on Earth, born around Christmas, to give us the excuse to see each other, to patch old hurts and to strengthen our relationships over good food. Let our inner value outshine any of the tangible gifts that we receive. We are fearfully and fallibly invaluable.
<Imagine me singing a Christmas Carol> Prayers and Blessings to you~